Tips to go vegan
Create a concrete belief system.
Find your motivation. Whether it’s environmentalism, health or animal welfare, watch documentaries that interest you. If you feel you want to give up, have things that remind you why you’re doing it.
Aim to have meat only once or twice a week. It’s ok if you can’t go vegetarian or vegan overnight. Every little step counts - a gradual approach means you are more likely to build good habits and make it a long-term lifestyle change.
Go step by step - find your favourite foods that you can do a straight replacement swap to vegan products; as these are the easiest to make good food choices a habit and ensure you continue to enjoy eating your favourite types of food!
Swap your meals. Steak and onion pie and chips for soya steak, use vegan mince in lasagnas and burgers. You often can’t taste the difference. Meal plan so you can stay organised.
Find new recipes to enjoy.
It takes time for your taste buds to adjust to new flavours, so speed up the process by finding vegetarian and vegan recipes and vegan cookbooks that you already like! Focus on your favourite vegetables, beans and soya products and say goodbye to the processed foods.
Make a list of vegetarian and vegan meals. There are plenty of meals, like curries and stir-fries, that are already vegan or vegetarian, and a lot of others can be switched. This is a great opportunity to level up your cooking skills and knowledge.
Google for vegan restaurants in your area and enjoy exploring more vegan foods with partners, friends and even the whole family! Get more people on board with your plant-based lifestyle and it will be easier to stick with it.
Forgive yourself if you make a mistake. New vegans often kick themselves after accidentally consuming animal products. Take a deep breath and try not to be too hard on yourself - it's a learning process!
Download The Climate App
My vegan journey: overcoming the hurdles to a plant-based diet
Nettie Alevropoulos-Borrill talks about her journey to veganism.
A plant-based diet is considered one of the best individual changes you can make to help the environment. For example, beef contributes more to climate change than any other food; a beef steak the size of a pack of playing cards can produce up to 105kg of greenhouse gases, which is the equivalent of driving from Leeds to Paris every time you have a steak.
Despite the positives of a plant-based diet, many people don’t take up a vegetarian or vegan diet, as they consider it to be incredibly difficult, yet most supermarkets stock a huge variety of plant-based foods. Alongside this, there have been many misconceptions, such as that plant-based alternatives don't have enough protein or other nutrients, or that vegans are "small and weak".
Fortunately, many athletes and celebrities including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lewis Hamilton and Serena Williams have taken up plant-based diets showing eating plants is enough to keep you fit and healthy, with just as much variety in body size as omnivorous diets. There is also an increasing trend among some vegans to include eggs in their diet if they're certain they come from hens that have been raised in an ethical manner with minimal impact on the environment.
Most people are born into cultures where the “normal diet” contains meat. I live in the UK, and the standard meals are typically meat-based, with our most popular breakfast, "a full English", mostly a plate of fried meat. So it makes sense that many people struggle with the idea of becoming vegetarian or vegan. But the growing communities of vegetarians and vegans have made finding like-minded people much easier and the vegan society is becoming more accepted and vocal, especially online.
It can be hard to break habits and going from a meat-based diet to one with tofu and lentils is a shock for anyone. It’s not just the food you’re changing, but a part of your culture.
The power of thought
When I first decided to go vegan, I didn’t know about the environmental impact of different foods. Like most people who avoid meat, I didn’t like the suffering that was happening to animals. However, we’re more likely to do something if it aligns with our identity and beliefs. So it can be hard to reduce meat intake when the only meat and dairy we see are the adverts and plastic-wrapped packages. We easily become detached from the situation.
I became vegan because of a PETA video, “Why Jared Leto leaves meat off his plate”. These days Jared Leto is known as debatably the worst Joker actor, but, in 2012, he was the singer of my favourite teenage band. The PETA video showed the consequences of eating meat and dairy. I went on to watch documentaries about the food industry, and the more I did, the easier it was for me to leave meat off my plate and explore a new vegan lifestyle.
Documentaries can connect us to our actions, just like books or films; the more we know about something, the less we can be idle bystanders. I really recommend watching documentaries that pique your interest, such as the recent David Attenborough “Our Planet”. It’s much easier making changes when we fully see why we need to do it.
A single step
Changing your diet can be difficult, so it’s important to take your time. For me, it took about 6 months to gradually cut out meat, choosing one meal at a time. When I felt happy with one change, I’d then work on the next. I first swapped ham sandwiches for cheese, and then chicken or steak for nut roasts, going through each non-plant item at a time. Everyone will have different foods that are easier or harder to replace or cut out, so do what works for you.
I’m very lucky that there are so many “meat alternatives” where I live; my local supermarkets have everything from vegan burgers to vegan mince to bacon. So I found it relatively easy to swap one for another.
However, my vegan journey was hard, since I grew up drinking a lot of cow’s milk, and I adored cheese and yoghurt. Swapping cow’s milk for a plant-based one was tricky. I went through all the different ones: rice, almond, hemp, oat and soya milk. I really didn’t like the taste of them but I eventually settled on oat milk. Since I use oat milk so often my taste buds quickly changed, and I now can’t stand the taste of cow’s milk!
Swapping cow's milk for a plant-based alternative has an environmentally friendly impact. Cows take up a lot of space, using land which could be better used for more efficient crops. Not only this, but cows require more water than plants do. And the biggest reason of all? While plants take in CO2 in order to live, cows produce a large number of greenhouse gases, notably in their farts. So making the switch to something like oat milk, which is the most environmentally friendly of all the plant milk, is a no-brainer.
If you want to make a change to the climate crisis, remember that small changes make all the difference. Just by cutting out the beef, you can make an impact, and if you want to go all the way to veganism and cut out animal products entirely, go for it! As the saying goes “the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”.
From Lockdown to Lockdown: Being a Vegan Traveller During a Pandemic
Gill Hibbitt who has been travelling for nearly 7 years while being vegan for over 30 years tells us about her recent travel experiences being a vegan abroad.
I spent the first part of lockdown from March 2020 to July 2020 in Thailand...
...most of the time I volunteered at Pete’s Mission, Pai, which is a vegan rescue looking after dogs, pigs, a horse and a chicken. It was our own bubble of vegan life: the animals are fed plant foods and volunteers are only allowed to bring vegan food onto the premises...heaven!
I then had 2 weeks of travelling once lockdown was relaxed and we could travel out of our area. So, I headed south visiting Sukkatai and Bangkok en route. I have both the Happy Cow and Abillion apps on my phone so I can locate vegan-friendly places to eat in the areas I’m visiting. Seriously helpful, as is Google Translate!
Bangkok has a plethora of options and Sukkothai had one. I usually carry health bars/nuts and dried fruits with me to eliminate the possibility of being stuck somewhere with no food.
I went back to the UK for a few weeks for my annual visit to see family and friends at the end of July...
...and left again at the beginning of September to avoid being stuck! My base there is at my sister’s house in Bournemouth: a very vegan-friendly place (both Bournemouth and my sister’s!), not only in terms of eateries but also supermarkets have come on leaps and bounds, as well as established healthy food shops.
On to Turkey...
...where I visited Antalya and Calçis (both with good vegan options) before going to volunteer at Koycegiz Dog rescue. Here I was due to stay in a volunteer house with meals included to save money... sadly, the other people there were dog lovers rather than animal lovers…all non-vegans!
The lady in charge was adamant that she couldn’t cater for vegans, which was enormously disappointing...I decided to leave the house, rent a flat and sort myself out whilst volunteering.
This was a great move as it was easy to find healthy food to cook and several of the eateries nearby were “accidentally vegan”, as in that they had vegan options on their menu without classifying them as such - with yummy ingredients like tofu and beans with plenty of protein to fill me up!
On to Kusadasi where I initially stayed with vegan friends I’d met in Thailand before renting a flat from the parents of one of the girls. In Kusadasi we were in and out of curfews and lockdowns...too numerous to mention!
Fortunately, it was an area of fresh fruit and veg readily available as well as nuts, dried fruits and vegan Turkish sweets! A lot of the time I was there, the restaurants were closed. When opened there were some featured in Happy Cow that offered vegan food, and in reality, other places also offered vegan food. Now it was time to move to Bulgaria before a 17-day, full-on-lockdown in Turkey hit.
It was a breath of fresh air to arrive in Burgas...
...people were walking in the streets, socialising in cafes, whilst observing social distancing. I was fortunate to arrive about 2 weeks after Lockdown had been lifted.
My room was small and had a kettle, so I made my own vegan breakfast and lunch there. In the evenings I went to a great vegan restaurant. Again, loads of nuts and dried fruits were available so eating healthy really wasn't a problem.
Next up: Plovdiv...
...where I stayed in a hostel where it was easy to self-cater, as well as eat out in a variety of vegan-friendly places. There was also an amazing health food shop where I could stock up on really good vegan cheeses, nutritional yeast etc which I use in many o
f my recipes. Once again, being vegan was easy-peasy.
On to Bansko and Bansko Street Dogs, set up and run by a lovely, dynamic vegan called Sarah. This is my home for 2 and a half months. I rent a flat, so I can choose to self-cater or to eat out. Once again, the Happy Cow app is a great travelling companion!
At fundraising suppers and quiz nights, there were always vegan options on the menu. The health food shop is nowhere near as good as in Plovdiv…however, it and other stores have plenty of vegan food, and fresh fruit and veg in the markets and from small greengrocers are plentiful.
Not sure where to go next in your carbon cutting journey? The Climate App is full of challenges to reducing your environmental impact!